“This is a kind of colonization”
Using the hashtag #China_get_out_of_Iran, a large number of Iranian Instagram (IG) users have reached out to the IG page of Hong Kong’s Reddit-like website LIGHK, drawing Hongkongers’ attention to a 25-year trade and military deal with Iran that China is proposing to sign.
Transcending language and cultural barriers by engaging in conversations with Iranian netizens, LIGHK users helped promote the campaign on various social media platforms.
Earlier this month, several media outlets reported that China and Iran had settled on the terms of a 25-year partnership — a deal that Forbes magazine suggested could be worth up to 400 billion United States dollars.
According to a draft of the agreement obtained by The New York Times, China will invest in infrastructure for Iran — including banking, telecommunications, ports, and railways — while Iran will provide a heavily discounted oil supply to China. The deal could have a tremendous impact on international relations and geopolitics, since it would allow China to establish its influence in the Middle East and Eurasia, thereby potentially threatening American interests.
Perhaps because of the Iranian government’s heavy suppression of freedom of expression, as well as the language barrier between the two countries, very few media outlets have reported on how Iranian citizens have reacted to news of the partnership.
Yet, Iranians still try hard to speak out, primarily via social media avenues. LIGHK posted a screen capture of some of the comments on Twitter:
People from Iran are seeking help with #china_get_out_of_iran on our IG page.
— LIHKG 討論區 (@lihkg_forum) July 23, 2020
Iranian Twitter user @h.vahidel tried to explain the deal between Iran and China to Hongkongers:
An island in Iran has been bought by China’s government and oil operation for 25 years. This is a kind of colonization.
Another Iranian social media user, @dearlostkarma, added:
Hey, iranian here. First i must apologise for some of the misunderstanding, the iranian officials are going into a contract with ccp that gives them military and land access for 25 years including ports and maritime routes, they have also agreed that china may occupy some islands in Persian Gulf. Fellow iranians who have protested against this deal with ccp were attacked by the 五毛 [WuMao are pro CCP trolls] and as they struggled to find ccp related forums they resorted to spam this message here…
The islands to which the Iranian netizens refer to are Kish and Qeshm. In 2016, China initiated a joint venture with Iran to construct an oil terminal in Qeshm. Some critics also believed that China planned to establish a military presence in the area by renting Kish Island.
In response to Iranian netizens’ plea to focus attention on the issue, LIHKG users called for actions of solidarity on social media by using a list of hashtags that included #فروش_ایران_ممنوع (meaning Iran is not for sale), #چین_برو_گمشو (meaning China get away), #No2IRChinaTreaty, and #China_get_out_of_Iran.
One Twitter user responded to the call and urged followers to join the online campaign:
Qeshm, an Island of Iran, is going to be occupied by China. Many brave Iranians are seeking for help from international. Therefore please help them! They are also victims of CCP’s tyranny.#No2IRChinaTreaty #china_get_out_of_iran #فروش_ایران_ pic.twitter.com/kcA1Hl3JRw
— Fight for Freedom (@camelohk50) July 24, 2020
Hong Kong pro-democracy district councilor Jordan Pang wrote:
Meanwhile, people in Iran are calling for #china_get_out_of_iran
China gave you Coronavirus, and now you are giving China your oil, come on Iran.
//When China Met Iran https://t.co/E2ZNXbH2XX
— Jordan Pang 彭家浩 (@kahosaiwan) July 23, 2020
Hong Kong student activist Sunny Cheung explained the deal:
1. Iranians are calling for a halt on Iran’s economic and security deal with #China. China is cashing in on the economic distress of Iran with its debt-trap dimpolmacy. The experiences of HK people is proof that the #CCP never tends to honor its promises.#china_get_out_of_iran pic.twitter.com/qw6VsYxaEi
— Sunny Cheung 張崑陽 (@SunnyCheungky) July 24, 2020
Across both blogospheres, Hongkongers and Iranians were talking to each other, united on the issue:
Thank you. We stand with you
China tyranny wants to take over the world. The free world should stand united and be against China. #china_Get_out_of_Iran
Don’t forget to #BoycottChineseProducts pic.twitter.com/fc5BcpYH05
— Flora Chan 好想去旅行啊 (@FloraChanhkhk) July 24, 2020
— The Fruit of Hong Kong (@FruitHk) July 24, 2020
Currentlythe details of the 25-year partnership agreement have not been officially revealed as Iranian officials say they are still in the process of finalizing the details of the deal.